It’s two weeks to opening day at Saratoga and we’re in the midst of a potential Canadian Triple Crown bid by Shaman Ghost, which can only mean that summer racing is ready to heat up. The American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is headed to the shore and California Chrome is headed to the turf of Arlington for the Million.
On a quiet racing weekend, here are a few notes and thoughts to ponder….
- One item not to be missed from last Sunday’s Queen’s Plate was the jam packed crowd and record $11.06 million in handle that Canada’s big racing day generated at Woodbine. The record handle bested the prior mark of $9 million set in 2013.
- Was fortunate to see three big graded stakes on the turf at Woodbine on Sunday. It is a gorgeous turf course that has to be the best one in North America. The long stretch makes for some tremendous finishes and with the course on the outside of the Polytrack, it’s closest to the fans and the grandstand.
- Speaking of good crowds, Finger Lakes had a decent crowd last Friday for the meet’s signature race, the New York Derby. The big crowd was likely spurred on by the presence of Hall of Famer Johnny V who won the New York Oaks with Temper Mint Patty. She was purchased by Mike Repole at the Fasig-Tipton July sale at Keeneland on Thursday and will head to the Todd Pletcher barn.
- It’s been five years since Big Red Mike showed up at the Fort in 2010 attempting the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown. The past four winners, including two fillies, have passed on Fort Erie to run elsewhere.
- Having the Plate winner at the border oval should boost both handle and attendance during the Tuesday twilight card scheduled for July 28. Officials have to be happy with the decision by Shaman Ghost’s connections to go for the Triple Crown, last won by Wando in 2003.
- Mark Casse will likely send Field of Courage, who skipped the Plate and favors the dirt, and possibly the hard luck colt Conquest Boogaloo, third in the Plate to Fort Erie in a couple weeks.
- With American Pharoah’s connections selecting Monmouth for his next race, it looks like Saratoga will be on the outside looking in. Still thinking he’ll end up back on the west coast for his next race.
- Tomorrow is Arlington Million Preview day with four Grade 3 prep races for Million Day on Aug. 15. The Arlington Handicap serves as the prep race for the Arlington Million.
- Delaware Park will also be a featured track tomorrow as it hosts the Delaware Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria (Even) makes her first appearance since winning in Louisville in the Delaware Oaks as the odds-on favorite.
- At Buffalo Raceway on Sunday, John Campbell will race for the first time since 1992. Campbell, who was elected into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1990, has won 10,841 races in his career with purse earnings of nearly $293 million. He has won the prestigious Hambletonian and the North America Cup six times apiece and has also taken the Little Brown Jug three times.
- The 60-year-old Campbell is scheduled to steer Jewels In Hock and Dancewithme Chuck in the two New York Sire Stakes events and will drive Miss B'Ville J and Nunkeri in the Excelsior 'A' races.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.